Golf returned to the Olympic Games for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro after over a 100 year absence. After the players put on a good show, it now seems likely that golf will be a fixture in the Olympic Games for many years to come.
In early August it was announced that the Players Championship would be moving to March and PGA Championship would be moving to May, in part, to alleviate the logjam of important events scheduled from July through September. The move also carved out a spot for the Olympics every four years.
This represents a great opportunity to grow the game worldwide and have additional exposure in the third world. But, to be competitive in international golf, a nation just starting a player development program would need to spend tens of millions of dollars building and maintaining one or more golf courses. Realistically, it will likely take decades to develop a world class player capable of being competitive against the best players in the world.
Compare that to the expense associated with starting a player development program for Long Drive and the differences are dramatic. For instance, the expense for building and maintaining a Long Drive grid modeled after the Mesquite Sports and Event Complex that would be 500 yards long by 60 yards wide is minuscule in comparison to building and maintaining multiple golf courses. And the grid would also be an excellent multi-purpose recreational facility capable of hosting a wide variety of community events and tournaments.
Meanwhile, on the player development side, preparing athletes to be competitive on the international stage should be much faster too. Every nation has world class athletes that are the perfect build for long drive; say 6’2”-6’5” and 220-250 lbs. With good coaching, these world class athletes could be taught the fundamentals of the long drive swing and, in some cases, be competitive in a fairly short period of time.
We have already seen this to be the case in Kenya. In 2015 the Board of International Long Drivers (BUILD) held a clinic and introduced the sport of long drive to the country. In 2016 Ajay Mathura earned two podium finishes in four events on the Long Drive European Tour (LDET) and finished the season ranked tenth. His longest drive of the season was 397 yards. The six person Kenyan team also competed in the International Long Drive Challenge in Manzanillo, Mexico and nearly upset some of the favorites.
If you think about it, golf is a marathon and long drive is a sprint. The marathon and 100 meters are on the opposite end of the spectrum in track and field, but both events compliment each other. They are technically the same sport, but athletes train for them much differently. During the past decade there has also been a movement to introduce shortened formats, like Long Drive, to the Olympics by adding sports such as 3 on 3 Basketball and variations of skateboarding and snowboarding.
The Olympic motto is faster, higher, stronger and when you think of golf, Long Drive is the embodiment of the Olympic motto because these athletes are among the best in the world and have a rare skill set that deserves to be on the world stage.
That is why I would like to propose that Long Drive and ParaLong Drive be added as sports for the Olympics and Paralympics respectively.
About the Author
Rich O’Brien is the Editor of Long Drive Golf Magazine. He is also serves as a member of the Advisory Board for the National Alliance of Accessible Golf and is the Program Director for PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) Charleston.